You know your better half makes your life sweeter. But according to research, a supportive partner is also a great asset when it comes to career success.
You probably didn't need a study to tell you that though (especially now around Valentine's Day), and you probably also don't need anyone to inform you that the opposite is also true. A rocky relationship can damage your chances of entrepreneurial success and vice versa; the bumpy road to start-up glory can be pretty rough on relationships too.
So how do you make sure your relationship suffers as little as possible from the stresses of starting up (and also that you're not distracted from your business by troubles on the home front)? According to a thoughtful recent post on the Unreasonable Institute blog the key is getting out in front of the problem.
If you want a smooth(ish) ride with your spouse, you need to discuss the road ahead before you begin your entrepreneurial journey, writes Dorcas Cheng-Tozun, a writer married to an entrepreneur. In the post she shares the challenges of living with a start-up founder (including an international relocation, months' long fights about work-life balance, and a handful of full-blown meltdowns), but also happily reports she and her husband are still going strong.
"All of this has been possible only because Ned has engaged me as a partner in the business from the day it was founded," she says, urging other would-be founders to be proactive in getting their better halves on board before venturing out into the choppy waters of entrepreneurship. She offers a few specific tips.
1. Tell them why.
All start-up journeys are stressful so it's important your spouse knows not just what you're doing, but why. "Why is this startup so important to you? Why now? How will the world be better? Approach this pitch with as much care and attention as you would an investor pitch," writes Cheng-Tozun.
2. Be realistic.
It's not going to help anyone if you promise roses, smiles, and instant perpetual growth. Level with your partner about the likely difficulties of the path you've chosen. Cheng-Tozun stresses the importance of being clear-eyed about time and money especially, and answering questions like, "What other forms of support do you need? When will you set aside time for your relationship? What are your limits?"
3. Celebrate your partner.
As I noted kicking off this post, both science and commonsense agree that a supportive partner is a huge asset for an entrepreneur. Acknowledge that contribution! "Regularly express appreciation for the specific things he or she does that allow you to be an entrepreneur. Let your partner know that he or she is as much a part of the team as anyone else," writes Cheng-Tozun.
4. Keep communication flowing.
"The more your spouse knows, the more he or she will feel empowered to balance the needs of the family and the business," claims Cheng-Tozun. But note, this one is controversial. Different entrepreneurs have different approaches to keeping their spouses in the loop about the nitty gritty of how the business is going -- some believe a little bit of ignorance can be bliss, others opt for full disclosure.
Whatever ground rules you set for your family regarding communication, however, it certainly pays to play by them, making sure your spouse has all the information they want about your business.
5. Set some deadlines.
Seeing light at the end of the tunnel (even if it's just a jerry-rigged bulb where you can huddle and discuss the next section of the journey) will help keep your better half sane. So make sure you mark out when your family will pause and re-evaluate how things are going together. "Knowing that this level of stress and uncertainty will not continue indefinitely will help stave off resentment in your spouse," explains Cheng-Tozun.
What can partners do to help?
Of course, keeping a relationship healthy despite the roller coaster ride that is entrepreneurial life isn't just down to the founder in the pair. An entrepreneur's partner can do loads to make things easier too. If it's your better half rather than you who's starting up, my Inc.com colleague Meg Cadoux Hirschberg (who has been married to an entrepreneur for 30 years) has offered tips.
What's your best advice for keeping a relationship running smoothly despite the stresses of entrepreneurship?